Government shutdown over for now, workers wary

Government shutdown over for now, workers wary

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - Now that the 35 day partial government shutdown has ended, the threat of another one looms Feb. 15th.

That’s the deadline imposed by the White House for a deal on border security, including a wall.

Joe Diggs, a union officer for the Federation of Government Employees has a warning for the thousands of federal employees in Arizona.

“What we’re telling them,” he said. “While we’re hopeful there’s not another shutdown, plan as if there will be.”

Membership is being told to catch up on all the bills, late fees and penalties that some workers accrued because not all landlords gave them a break, some were late on credit card bills while others did not get an extension on electric or water bills.

“Security clearances for many workers depends on a clean credit rating,” he said. “So they’ll want to take care of that first.”

Stockpile as much cash as possible, make sure there’s enough non-perishable items in the home and take advantage of union offers and organizations.

While the shutdown may be over for some, the unions will still continue to stockpile food and other necessities, “at least through the week,” Diggs said.

That’s why Beth Holloway drove two hours from Benson to the Pima Area Labor Federation this afternoon.

A federal prison worker who spent the past month on furlough, she’s in Tucson to pick up supplies for hundreds of other workers.

“We have 200 people on staff at the prison,” she said. “But we also have BLM, Forest Service and Border Patrol.”

She’s worked for the government 19 years and says one of the reasons she chose the government was for the stability it offered.

“This sort of shakes the confidence,” she said of the shutdown.

The gas cards are a big item for those people in rural areas like Safford.

“We have people with life threatening illnesses, like cancer,” she said. “They had to drive all the way to Phoenix for treatment.”

Without gas money it made for some difficult life choices.

“Some of them went without food to have gas to go to treatment,” she said. “They shouldn’t have to make that decision.”

But that’s the kind of decision that Diggs is trying to prevent going forward.

“If I can save you fifty, seventy five bucks on groceries, that’s money you can spend on kids clothes, you can spend on things around the house or you can pay a bill that you’ve been steppin' on," he said.

It’s up to each government department to determine how to make up for the missed paychecks. Some have already announced plans, others may not get paid until the end of the week while TSA agents will get only a week back pay. A decision will be made as to when the rest of it will be made up.

It’s still a burden for some workers who are trying to catch up.

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